Update on Migrants at the Lexington Shelter 

In our last newsletter, I updated our faithful followers about work we were involved with in supporting  30 migrant families living in Lexington.  This work has continued and expanded, and the coalition of which we are a part has shown itself to be a dedicated and resourceful team, accomplishing a remarkable amount for a leaderless group, many of whom had not met before engaging in this work.

Where historically, most of LexRAP’s clients have been from the broader middle east (including Iraq, Egypt, and Afghanistan) and Africa, the majority of these families have fled the pervasive violence in Haiti. They are being housed as part of the state’s “right to Shelter” law.

While the state provides the rooms and 3 meals a day, as well as cash benefits and SNAP; and the town has oversight of health issues, and has registered the kids for school; there is much that falls to volunteers, most of which is familiar terrain for LexRAP: helping our new residents feel welcome, and considering what their evolving needs are, with a goal of their becoming independent.
After the initial rush of providing essentials such as formula and diapers for babies, and winter clothes for all, we began to look at intermediate and longer term goals.

Things we have accomplished, are on-going, or are in planning:

  • Twice weekly ESL classes – this has been going on for about a month, providing basic vocabulary and grammar.
  • Three-times a week English conversation circles: given the importance of learning English, this is another opportunity, focused more on sentences and cadence.
  • Two people from TD Bank came, did the first part of registering people for bank accounts, went back to the bank to finishing processing, then came back to the hotel to hand out debit cards and provide information about the accounts and on-line banking.
  • Given that one hotel has no cooking facilities, and the other’s are minimal, a few volunteers have arranged to bring a few families to a local church kitchen to cook once a week. This has happened twice, and is expected to begin occurring twice a week.
  • Concurrent with supporting off-site cooking has been steady lobbying to have the families in the no-kitchen hotel moved to the hotel with kitchenette.  This was just approved in agreement with the hotel and the state.
  • The Lexington Food pantry created a special order form for the hotel families, and food has been delivered (by volunteers) two weeks in a row. This is expected to continue.
  • On two occasions, an individual or organization provided Haitian meals for all the residents.
  • We have been in contact with MassHIRE, a state agency that supports people with job searches. Some important preparation work has been done, gathering information about residents’ work history, which will be entered into a program which creates a resume, after which MassHIRE will give individual job-searching support. These folks are eager to work!
  • One volunteer has an occasional crocheting circle
  • Another volunteer became aware that some of these folks had not had any activity in their bank accounts, which were at risk of being closed. This volunteer went to the bank, deposited a nominal sum to ensure the account stayed open, then began working with each family to set up direct deposit for their DTA funds.

While long-time LexRAP volunteers are among the most dedicated, this is truly a coalition which includes people from all parts of Lexington. It’s a joy and a privilege to work with so many devoted people, many of whom I did not know before this coalition came together.

-Bruce Neumann, LexRAP President    

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Interested in volunteering with LexRAP? We are currently seeking volunteers to assist in any way possible, with either major or modest time commitments. All assistance is welcome. Complete our volunteer intake form.
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